Gay marriage foes suffered a setback
Tuesday with the defeat of Republican Stephen Burgmeier in Iowa.
Democrat Curt Hanson narrowly won the
special election to fill the seat left vacant when Democratic
Representative John Whitaker was tapped to serve as the Iowa director
of the Farm Service Agency, The Iowa Independent reported.
The race was the first since the Iowa
Supreme Court legalized gay marriage on April 3, and anti-gay
marriage groups lobbied hard on behalf of Burgmeier.
At least three groups that oppose gay
marriage supported Burgmeier: Everyday America, the Iowa Family
Policy Center, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
NOM, the nation's largest and most
vociferous group opposing gay marriage, placed the heaviest bet,
spending $90,000 in television and radio ads on the Republican. The
group called the campaign Reclaim Iowa.
The race between the two men is a
harbinger of politics to come in Iowa as Republicans continue to
obsess about the court's ruling. All five leading Republicans hoping
to win the governor's mansion in 2010 oppose gay marriage.
Republican frontrunner Bob Vander Plaats has pledged he would sign an
executive order placing a stay on gay marriages and force a public
vote on the issue, if elected. Rod Roberts, an Iowa State
Representative, has called for the ouster of the seven justices,
three of which will be up for retention in 2010.
“Vote no on retention of those three
judges coming up in 2010 and you will have a say,” Roberts told a
crowd of Dallas County Republicans last week.
NOM aspires to repeat last year's
successful repeal of legalized gay marriage in California with a
voter-approved gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. Iowa, however,
unlike states such as California, does not allow voters to initiate a
constitutional amendment. Amendments must be approved by legislators
before heading to voters. Leaving anti-gay groups with the
daunting task of altering the composition of the Democratically-led
Legislature before they can begin the legislative process.
Democrats hailed their victory, while
Republican downplayed their loss.
“Democrats have been successful in
the last two election cycles and tonight because we have recruited
great candidates, followed through on the promises we've made and are
governing the state responsibly,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair
Michael Kiernan said in a statement.
“While we are disappointed,” Matt
Strawn, party chair of the Republican Party, said, “the fact that
Republicans nearly won a solid [Iowa Governor] Culver-Obama
legislative district shows that Iowans are not pleased with the
status quo and one-party rule in Des Moines.”